Federal Labor would reform the remuneration process for Australian Defence Force personnel and improve their ability to bargain for better pay and conditions if elected.
The announcement comes after years of frustration within the Defence Force community, triggered by a belowinflation pay offer of 1.5 per cent for 57,000 Australia soldiers, sailors and air force personnel in 2014.
The offer was considered as insult by many with seven months of delay and policy reversals costing ADF personnel nearly $25 million in wages.
The offer was revised to 2 per cent after former prime minister Tony Abbott intervened and was approved in June 2015, although Defence Force welfare groups have continued to call for reform.
Unlike most public servants, ADF personnel are unable to negotiate their pay and conditions and rely on independent associations to advocate for them.
They cannot accept or reject a proposal and cannot take industrial action if they have a grievance.
Wages are proposed by the federal government and the ADF leadership. The proposals are approved or rejected by the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal, which has no arbitral powers.
The majority of bargaining was done by the Australian Defence Force Welfare Association, which raised concerns personnel would have to give up Christmas and recreational leave to secure the pay increase.
Labor’s defence spokeswoman Gai Brodtmann said her government would provide the association with a $100,000 grant each year to improve its ability to bargain.
“A Labor government would formalise the role of the association in advocating for ADF pay and conditions – and make sure it is appropriately resourced to do so.”
Ms Brodtmann said the 2014 pay offer highlighted the need to reform the remuneration process.
“This process was roundly criticised by Defence commentators as being conflicted and non-consultative,” she said.
“ADF personnel and their families make enormous sacrifices in service of our country. They shouldn’t be relying on “Captain’s calls” to get the pay and conditions they deserve, like they were forced to in 2014.”
In a submission to government last year, DFWA association executive director Alf Jaugietis called for the system to be overhauled.
“The repeated intervention of the government to improve the pay offer to ADF personnel highlights the inadequacy of the original offer and also the unfairness of the process followed to determine ADF salary adjustments,” he said.
“Even the tribunal started to doubt the fairness of the process under which it had to work and that its hands were tied to make a decision outside of the agreed positions.”
Henry Belot – Canberra Times
Published: June 17, 2016